After a couple of years of researching and writing my new book Content Marketing for PR, it’s finally been published under my Digital Citizen imprint.
So I thought that while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’d take you behind the scenes of the self-publishing process.
By way of background, Content Marketing for PR is my second book. My first – microDOMINATION – was published by Wiley, and so all the back-end stuff was handled by them.
This time, I decided to go down the self-publishing route. I’m a DIY kind of guy when it comes to content marketing (and a book like this is a pure content marketing play), so I thought: Let’s dig in and give it a go!
It’s a steep learning curve, the back-end of this self-publishing caper, but once you make sense of it all, then you’re good to go. Write and publish one book, then another, then another … rinse and repeat!
One thing my publisher Wiley did the first time around was get my cover designed right at the start. It’s a bit of a psychological thing. Having your cover ready to go makes it all real, and helps you keep focused on the end-goal of getting your book finished and on to the (virtual) bookshelves.
So that’s what I did this time around. While I had still done a fair bit of writing at this stage, I still got out of the blocks reasonably early and, using an online platform called Reedsy, I did a call-out to a shortlist of book cover designers.
Reedsy describes itself as a “full ecosystem for authors and publishing professionals”. Part of its service is a marketplace of vetted freelance professionals who operate across the publishing spectrum, from cover and interior design through to editing, and marketing and publicity. It’s worth checking out if you’re an aspiring author and looking to self-publish.
I selected London-based designer Vanessa Mendozzi to do my cover. Vanessa was terrific to work with, and she came back with a number of initial design concepts for me to consider:
We went back and forth a bit before shortlisting two designs, which I found hard to separate. So I did what I always do when faced with a decision such as this. I put it to the crowd using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
I got an amazing response across all three platforms, but the LinkedIn post (below) resonated the most and ended up generating over 73,000 views. Interestingly, the public vote was very evenly split, which meant I still needed to make a decision! While I knew the dark blue version would stand out the best on Amazon and online retail sites, I decided to go with ‘B’, the white cover with orange writing because I felt it was the more interesting design of the pair.
Would cover ‘A’ performed better? Maybe. Probably. But to me, that’s not the point. Personally, I’m very comfortable with the choice of cover. Sometimes it’s better to go with something that’s more intriguing and less obvious rather than something that ‘ticks all the boxes’ but is kinda obvious. More sales, or something more creatively interesting? I think you know the answer 🙂
With the cover squared away, my attention then shifted back to finishing the writing of the manuscript.
This took a good few months. Indeed, I did a fair bit of rewriting as the media landscape was continually evolving and I was discovering better examples of content marketing by companies and organisations, so this set me back longer than I had hoped.
Given I only wrote the book outside of work hours, it always meant it was going to take a lot longer than if I dedicated several days a week to the project.
Once I had the manuscript where I wanted it to be, it was time to hand it over to an editor to weave their magic.
One thing most authors will tell you is that a good editor will make your book even better. That’s their job. To take what you’ve written and improve upon it.
I returned to Reedsy and put together a shortlist of editors who I felt fit the bill as to what I was after, eventually selecting Carol Reed from New York, who had worked on books by such best-selling authors as Gary Vaynerchuk, Timothy Ferriss, and Jack Welch.
The editing took a couple of months. It was a collaborative effort involving several “sweeps” of the manuscript until Carol had completed her bit, and then I went back and refined it until I was happy with the finished product. A part of this may have been me letting my perfectionist self get in the road!
Back cover blurb
Around this time I also got stuck into writing the back cover blurb. Hands-down, this was the hardest part of the book to write. I knew of a couple of specialist blurb writers and thought about using one, but it was going to take six weeks to get it written. Thinking this was a long lead time that would set me back a bit, I decided not to go down that path.
As it turned out, given the editing process took longer than I had planned for in my head, I could’ve outsourced this side of things.
Now, you might be thinking: Why wouldn’t you write the back cover blurb yourself?
Personally, I think it’s a bit of an art, and I know I’m not alone here. There are some top authors who engage specialists to write the back cover blurb. While I’m happy with how Content Marketing for PR‘s back cover scrubbed up, getting someone to do it is something I would consider next time.
Interior design & formatting
Okay, so I’ve got a finished manuscript, a back cover blurb, a professionally-designed cover and back cover – now for the book interior!
For this task, I returned once more to Reedsy to see if I could find a specialist.
Basically, all I did was upload my manuscript (in Microsoft Word) and Vellum automagically formatted it into a professional-looking book.
I had to do a few things – for example, select the template and then manually go through the whole thing and tweak as necessary – but ultimately, it was cheaper and way quicker than outsourcing to a specialist.
Now, I will say that if you have a complex book interior design with lots of illustrations etc, Vellum might not work for you. But in my case, it was absolutely brilliant. And the best thing? I can use it again and again without paying anything extra, so it was well worth the $US240 investment I reckon.
With the book in its finished state – front, back and interior – it was now time to “spit it out” (a technical term!) in the various formats required to publish in print (on demand) and digital versions. This was something Vellum did at the click of a button. Seriously! It’s terrific!
The back-end of self-publishing
This part of the proceedings was a steep learning curve involving heaps of research. Basically, I needed to understand the options of getting the book onto the market.
I had a bit of an idea already, but this took longer than I envisaged due to the many moving parts that make up the back-end of publishing.
Firstly, at this juncture, you need to decide whether you want to go ebook only, or ebook and print-on-demand combo (I’m deliberately leaving audiobook alone for the moment).
My choice was for both print and digital.
The other choice is whether you just want to go with Amazon or broaden your range of online outlets. I know some authors who are happy just publishing ebooks to Amazon’s Kindle store, but it’s worth understanding that there’s a bigger world out there over and above Amazon. For example, Apple Books are very popular, especially in Australia, while ebooks published by Canada-based Kobo boast strong sales in 22 countries, with sales more or less evenly distributed between Asia, North and South America, and Europe.
Okay, knowing that I wanted to (a) publish in both print and digital formats, and (b) extend the reach of my distribution beyond just Amazon, what then?
I made the decision to go directly to Amazon for Kindle and print-on-demand. You can use intermediaries to do this, but I felt going direct was the best option for me as I could control such things as pricing.
Then I had to decide how to carve up the rest of the distribution.
PublishDrive is a relatively new kid on the block. It “offers a range of services to help self-published authors and independent publishers distribute globally and market strategically.” In short, PublishDrive distributes to over 400 online stores and 240,000 digital libraries. Let those numbers sink in for a moment! Welcome to self-publishing in 2019!
A similar service is provided by Draft2Digital, and I nearly pushed the button with them but decided on PublishDrive because they offered the Google Play Books digital storefront, although I see that Draft2Digital now do too (they didn’t when I was tossing up between the two).
The image below shows just some of the online stores PublishDrive has got me into.
I also needed to secure an ISBN, or International Standard Book Number. It is a 13-digit number that’s used as a unique identifier for books globally.
I purchased a number of ISBNs from Thorpe-Bowker Identifier Services, reportedly the only official ISBN agency in Australia. I’m now sorted in this regard for a few books to come! I’ve allocated an ISBN for both print and ebook versions of my book.
Let’s now shift our attention to print-on-demand.
I love hard-copy books. There was no way I was ever going to publish a book and not have it available in print!
All print-on-demand roads lead to one company – IngramSpark!
IngramSpark allows you to, in its words, “reach 39,000+ retailers and libraries around the world”. Without boring you with the details, IngramSpark is a print-on-demand machine that has the global infrastructure to get physical copies of your book into people’s hands. They even have a printing set-up here in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, which has proved useful. Unlike the old days of self-publishing where you had to print 500 to a 1000 books or so and have them sitting in your garage, today I can order small quantities so it doesn’t break the bank!
My book might not be on the actual shelves of major book retailers around the world, but if anyone orders through a bookshop (well, the 39,000 that IngramSpark deals with), they will be able to get my book, which is terrific to know.
Okay, so I have Amazon covered, plus I have digital and print-on-demand available for a good chunk of virtually every other online book retailer.
Am I missing something?
Yes! Being able to sell digital copies directly to people who don’t want to go through an online retailer. For this, I chose Payhip, thanks again to @thecreativepenn.
Payhip is terrific. If you have digital downloads or online memberships, it’s definitely worth a look. It was the best user-experience I have ever gone through in terms of setting up the online storefront. And the best bit? They handle all the tax side of things!
Over it? Ha, it’s only beginning
Let’s finish up with the launch event itself. We went ‘old school’ vs ”new school’ – yuh! A physical in-person event held at WeWork in Melbourne, but with a twist – we also live-streamed it via Facebook, with thanks to Danny Matthews from Dial M for Media.
Not only did we have viewers from around the world, including Bournemouth in the UK, but we have since posted the video on YouTube (see below), plus I have since edited into bite-sized chunks and published on social media.
After all that, wanna buy the book?